United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL P. MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court for consideration on Plaintiff
Carl Young's Motion for Summary Judgment on the Issue
of Defendants' Liability (the “Motion”)
. Defendants Board of Supervisors of Humphreys County,
Mississippi (“the Board”) and Board president
“Dickie” Stevens have each filed a
Response to the Motion , to which Plaintiff
filed a Rebuttal . The Court has considered the
Motion, Responses, and Rebuttal, as well as relevant case law
and evidence, and is now prepared to rule.
commenced this action by filing his Complaint
against Humphreys County Board of Supervisors, Board
President “Dickie” Stevens, and unknown John Does
1-5, based upon what he argues was the unlawful condemnation
and subsequent taking of three of his properties in Humphreys
County. Young claims a violation of his due process under the
14th Amendment, further claiming that Defendants
are in violation of state law and are liable under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Plaintiff asserts claims of trespass to property
and conversion of property against the Defendants. Defendant
Stevens has offered qualified immunity as a defense to the
claims against him. On June 1, 2017, Plaintiff moved for
Summary Judgment on the issue of the Defendants'
liability, which is the instant motion before the Court.
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists “if
the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505,
91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). At the summary judgment stage, the
court must “draw all reasonable inferences in favor of
the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility
determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct.
2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). Once the moving party shows
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, the
nonmoving party “must come forward with specific facts
showing a genuine factual issue for trial.” Harris
ex rel. Harris v. Pontotoc Cty. Sch. Dist., 635 F.3d
685, 690 (5th Cir. 2011). “[A] party cannot defeat
summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated
assertions, or ‘only a scintilla of
evidence.'” Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med.
Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Qualified Immunity Standard
doctrine of qualified immunity shields a governmental
official from civil liability for damages based upon the
performance of discretionary functions if the official's
acts did not violate clearly established constitutional or
statutory law of which a reasonable person would have known.
Easter v. Powell, 467 F.3d 459, 462 (5th Cir. 2006).
It is well established that a defendant who “pleads
qualified immunity and shows he is a governmental official
whose position involves the exercise of discretion”
thereby places the burden on the plaintiff to “rebut
this defense by establishing that the official's
allegedly wrongful conduct violated clearly established
law.” Pierce v. Smith, 117 F.3d 866, 871-72
(5th Cir.1997). The defendant “need only plead his good
faith, which then shifts the burden to the
plaintiff[…].”Michalik v. Hermann, 422
F.3d 252, 262 (5th Cir. 2005)(internal citations omitted).
The plaintiff must then “rebut the defense by
establishing that the officer's allegedly wrongful
conduct violated clearly established law.” Id.
at 262. Further, “[t]he plaintiff bears the burden of
negating the defense and cannot rest on conclusory
allegations and assertions but must demonstrate genuine
issues of material fact regarding the reasonableness of the
officer's conduct.” Id. at 262.
to the motion at hand, the Plaintiff must show that there is
no genuine issue of material fact in order to prevail. In
addition, the inferences drawn from the circumstantial
evidence “must be the only ones which reasonably could
be drawn from the evidence presented.” Mississippi
Valley Gas Co. v. Estate of Walker, 725 So.2d 139, 145
(Miss. 1998). In his motion, the Plaintiff argues that
Charles Edwards informed Mr. Young “that he could do no
further work on his properties until Mr. Young met with
the Board of Supervisors on October 5, 2015.”
(emphasis added). However, Defendant Humphreys County asserts
in their Response that “Defendant Stevens then
instructed Mr. Edwards to post a sign on the properties that
work could not continue until the owner contacted the
Board of Supervisors.” (emphasis added). Defendant
adds that Young did not contact the Board after speaking with
Mr. Edwards. This difference, between stopping work until
October 5th or stopping work until speaking with
the Board, is material to understanding if the stop in work
was brief, and also if the Plaintiff did anything to mitigate
his alleged damages. This material fact is not the only
dispute between the parties, as other conflicting material
facts are also at issue.
in his Rebuttal, the Plaintiff insinuates that Defendant
Stevens operated maliciously, acting against the Plaintiff
because they were political rivals. It appears this claim is
unsubstantiated and amounts to a mere conclusory allegation,
upon which this court cannot grant summary judgment. In
addition, the Motion concludes that “Defendant Stevens
had no legal right to take such actions.” Although
Stevens has not filed any Motion for Summary Judgment on the
basis of his qualified immunity, he has asserted qualified
immunity as a defense, and represents that his actions were
in the service of the public. Once qualified immunity is
asserted as a defense, “the plaintiff bears the burden
of negating the defense and cannot rest on conclusory
allegations” and must “demonstrate genuine issues
of material fact regarding the reasonableness” of the
conduct at issue. Michalik v. Hermann, 422 F.3d 252,
262 (5th Cir. 2005). As the Plaintiff relies on conclusory
allegations and the material facts of this case are in
conflict, this Court denies the Plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment.
judgment for the moving party is only proper when a rational
jury, looking at the record as a whole, could not find for
the nonmoving party.” Simmons v. Ford Motor
Co., 2006 WL 3760521, at *2 (S.D.Miss. Dec. 15, 2006)
(citing Matshushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538
(1986)). Based on the evidence provided, the Court finds that
a rational jury could rule in Defendants' favor, making
summary judgment improper.
it is hereby ORDERED that Young's Motion for Summary